Israel's Attorney General Urged to Probe Likud Hidden Cameras in Arab Polling Stations

Avichai Mendelblit should check whether Likud's attempts at voter suppression within the Arab community amount to violation of election law, Meretz lawmaker says

Cameras confiscated by the Israel Police at polling stations in Israeli Arab communities, April 9, 2019.
Hadash Spokesperson's Office

Meretz lawmaker Michal Rozin called on Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to launch a probe in order to check whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party violated Israeli election law by installing hidden cameras in polling stations where Arab Israelis voted. 

The Likud party spent hundreds of thousands of shekels to provide its  observers in polling stations in Arab communities with 1,200 hidden cameras. The police confiscated Tuesday dozens of these cameras, while Netanyahu said there should be cameras everywhere in order to ensure a "kosher" voting process.

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Rozin asked Mendelblit to determine whether the attempts at voter suppression within the Arab community by the Likud party amount to a violation of Israeli election law, which forbids any intimidation in the election.

In her letter she sent the attorney general, Rozin wrote: "The Likud attempted to deter voters in the Arab community from fulfilling their democratic right, in a way that amounts to intimidation."

The Meretz lawmaker added that the attempts are "a grievous act that amounts to a violation of Israeli election law and the basic values of the state of Israel as a democratic state."

Rozin added: "The racist campaign of the Likud against the Arab community in Israel ended in an attempt at racially-based voter suppression, which was methodically carried out and sponsored. Netanyahu continues to cast off every restriction left upon him, and shamelessly uses mafia-like methods of intimidation. All this is aimed at scraping together a few more seats for the right-wing bloc."

Rozin added that she will present a proposal to amend the election law in a way that will explicitly limit the use of cameras or recording devices in polling stations to the police or the Central Elections Committee, and forbid their use for political aims by any party.

Meretz lawmaker Michal Rozen in the Knesset, October 5, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

"It cannot be that they use the integrity [of the elections] as an excuse to continue their campaign of fear against the Arab population of Israel," she wrote. "The amendment to the election law will ensure that narrow political considerations will not mix in and influence the ways in which we ensure the integrity of our elections at the polls."

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel also urged Mendelblit and Israel Police to launch a criminal investigation into the hidden cameras, which "harmed the basic principles of the election process ... which state that elections would be free and secret," attorney Sawsan Zaher said.

Following the incident, the Central Elections Committee's legal counsel said that polling officials are not allowed to film voters arriving at the polling stations nor the voting process. According to the legal adviser, filming is allowed only in special cases in order to report an unusual event.

In case the election process is filmed, the police or the committee representatives must be informed, the counsel said.

A senior police official said that at this point, there is no suspicion that a criminal offense was committed, adding that the activists caught with hidden cameras were outside the polling stations and not inside them.

The police are currently waiting for the Central Elections Committee's decision to determine whether the installment of the camera is an obstruction of the voting process.